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We must save King Street’s impressive shop buildings

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WE of that era knew it for its elegant frontage and gorgeous interior – those big display cabinets that used to glint and sparkle with assembled gold and diamonds.

Grant’s the jewellers was itself a high-class adornment to King Street in Shields and was much missed when it closed.

When visitors arrive in a town, one of the things they enjoy seeing is original old-fashioned shop frontages. King Street has retained more than most of these, and I’d suggest we touch them at our peril.

The premises were latterly a sports outfitters, now transferred a few shops further down.

I was recalling Grant’s the other day. By the way, an online reader has since made the point that when visitors arrive in a town, one of the things they enjoy seeing is original old-fashioned shop frontages. King Street has retained more than most of these, and I’d suggest we touch them at our peril.

But to return to Grant’s. I’ve also since heard from Dorothy Ramser, in France, who turned up a very old advertisement/ business card for Grant’s, on which they’re described as watchmakers to the Admiralty, as well as goldsmiths and diamond merchants, with branches in North Shields, Jarrow, Sunderland and Newcastle.

“I never knew,” says Dorothy.

Certainly their business as clock makers turns out to have an older and more venerable history, of which some people may have been unaware.

The firm was founded on its site, on the corner of King Street and Waterloo Vale, in 1870, by Ald James Grant, who later became Mayor of Shields.

Subsequently, however, it took over the oldest established business of clockmakers in the North of England, that of Clement Gowland, begun in 1770.

The firm made chronometers for the Admiralty, and large-size clocks for public buildings all over the country.

It’s own large exterior clock will still be fondly remembered, being known, I think I’m right in saying, by a nickname. Was it ‘Grant’s Jumper’?

A grandfather clock, made by the founder, James Grant, also long stood inside the shop.

As a goldsmiths, many commemorative pieces will have come out of the shop over the years.

When Edward VII succeeded Queen Victoria in 1902, for instance, the firm produced a solid silver gilt spoon which was an exact replica of the 12th century anointing spoon to be used at the Coronation. Worth five shillings, this spoon was given to anyone who bought goods worth a £1 or more.

It’s the chronometers for the Admiralty which intrigue both Dorothy and me, however. I wonder where some of them ended up?